Ileum from rats 4, 9, 11, 12, and 15 days old can best be maintained for 24 hours in a system using Hanks' Balanced Salt Solution without fetal calf serum, at 25°C and 21% O2. Suckling rat duodenum and jejunum were difficult to maintain well for 24 hours in this system or a variety of other systems that were tried. A temperature of 37°C hastened deterioration of duodenum, jejunum or ileum. With ileum, 3H‐thymidine and 14C‐leucine were increasingly incorporated into DNA and protein over the 24‐hour period. Light microscopy, as well as scanning and transmission electron microscopy, showed very good preservation of the ileum after 24 hours. The addition to the medium of hydrocortisone, 1 μm, and thyroxine, 0.01 μm, alone or in combination, did not change DNA or protein synthesis, or morphology, possibly because of the relatively short (24 hour) time period. Our organ culture system emphasizes the differences between suckling rat ileum and the rest of the intestine, and provides a new tool for evaluating, over a 24‐hour period, the developing rat small intestine.